How to handle instances of employee absence

It's important for companies to keep track of employee absences to monitor productivity.

Companies have a lot of work on their hands when it comes to absenteeism and presenteeism. While the former situation revolves around employees taking the day off for a personal reason, the latter instance is an office appearance despite extenuating circumstances – like illness or another medical reason. No matter the case, these two causes of reduction in productivity are challenging to talk about. Yet, benefits leaders may have to have difficult discussions with their employees about these instances to ensure both workers and the business doesn't suffer. The important element of the leave management process requires care and caution.

Here's how your organization can tackle these challenges head on:

Keep updated records
Does your company have a system for tracking employee absences or issues on the job? If not, it would be wise to create one. These records can be monitored alongside existing voluntary employee benefits – like paid time off and sick days – to ensure workers aren't taking advantage of these offerings. Benefits leaders should take note of the following information, according to The Balance:

  • The date.
  • Type of illness or reason for missing work.
  • Return-to-work date.
  • Doctor's note, if necessary for extended absence.

While these factors help improve absenteeism, companies will also need to be cognizant of presenteeism – which results in greater loss of productivity than absenteeism – and its various forms as well. Sick employees who don't want to miss a day of work, but are not productive in the office due to their illness should be considered separately – and sometimes, even sent home. Employee self-assessment can also help companies identify productivity issues and designate helpful solutions.

Set up a one-on-one
If absences continue, or if employees go over their allotted number of sick or PTO days, it may be time for benefits managers to step in. The goal of this confrontation is to understand the reason for a person not being at work, instead of entering the conversation in an accusatory nature.

HR leaders should first ensure employees are aware of company policies during these discussions before getting into the nitty-gritty details, Business Management Daily recommended. It could be that workers are unaware of how to report absences, need to take FMLA leave and don't know how to broach the subject or are not knowledgeable of the penalties that come with too many missed days. It's important for benefits teams to answer any of these questions and bring up the recognizable pattern that's causing issue. With a little one-on-one conversation, chances are strong that both parties can come to a resolution without much struggle.

"Poor company morale could be causing employee absences."

Improve company morale
There are any number of reasons why workers are absent. For some it's sickness, for others it's a familial issue. Yet, there may be one element causing these call-offs that benefits leaders are overlooking: employee morale. If troubling events have transpired in recent months, people may feel less inclined to want to come to work. As a result, they'll be absent and make up a reason for being so. Or, alternatively, workers may feel as though they have to come into work out of fear of losing their job or causing a reduction in productivity. 

It's important for HR teams to get a gauge on where workers stand when it comes to overall happiness and satisfaction in their jobs. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, employers with strong morale tend to witness a lower number of last-minute absences than those companies with poor levels of organizational confidence.